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South Korea probes six banks on cryptocurrency-related money laundering violations

Following recent reports that suggested that the South Korean government will ban anonymous cryptocurrency trading in the country, latest reports indicate that the government is now inspecting six local banks offering virtual currency account services to clients.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Financial Services Commission (FSC) chairman Choi Jong-ku said that banks are keeping quiet about “money flows for illegal use, instead of taking the role of gatekeepers.”

The FSC’s Financial Intelligence Unit and the Financial Supervisory Service have launched the joint inspection on local banks today to check their compliance with anti-money laundering regulations, The Korea Herald reported. The six banks include Nonghyup, the Industrial Bank of Korea, Shinhan, Kookmin and Woori banks, and the Korea Development Bank, according to The Korea Times.

“Virtual currency transactions are highly susceptible for money laundering, given that the transactions implicate anonymity and are not made face-to-face,” Choi said.

Recent data shows that 111 bank accounts from six domestic banks have deposited nearly 2 trillion won ($1.88 billion) through virtual accounts linked to them (as of December 2017).

According to KBS, Choi also said that if the investigations reveal any illicit activities, the virtual accounts will be shut down, adding that such banks will have their virtual account services suspended.

“A virtual currency does not play the role of a medium of payment,” he said. “It only triggers side effects, such as money laundering, fraud, illegal fundraising, hacking attacks and irrational speculation.”

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